Thursday, 20 May 2010

Update from John Bowden (Sept 2007)

John Bowden, long term prisoner and prison activist, writes:

In April of this year, following an allegation by a right-wing American social worker at Castle Huntly open prison that I was in contact with a 'terrorist group', I was returned to a high-security prison and my chances of release on parole after 25 years in jail effectively sabotaged.

So apparently grave were the allegations made by the social worker, Matt Stillman, that the Scottish Prison Service decided to instigate a 'psychological risk assessment' of me in order, they claimed, to ascertain the extent of my sudden and dramatically increased danger to the public. In fact, a simple two minute review of the 'terrorist' group's website would have revealed it to be Anarchist Black Cross, a perfectly legitimate and legal prisoners' support group. Instead a senior forensic psychologist based at Perth Prison, Dawn Harris, was commissioned to write a report on me for the Parole Board and to assess my suitability for a return to an open prison. The expectation on the part of those who asked Dawn Harris to prepare her report was that, like all compliant prison psychologists and social workers, she would focus her attention on what was considered the pathology of my character and personality, and add some intellectual muscle to Stillman's ridiculous claims regarding my politics.

Unfortunately for them, Dawn Harris began her assessment of me by investigating Stillman's claim that ABC was a 'terrorist group'. A quick search of the internet, as well as the elicited views of senior police officers, established Stillman's claim to be a complete falsehood, and Harris later included in her report a verbatim description of the origins and principles of the ABC group and reported its claim that my release from prison was being hindered by a straightforward intention on the part of prison officialdom to punish and victimise me for campaigning for prisoners' rights over two decades. She then wrote of my relationship with ABC in the following way: "As such, Mr Bowden's connection with the ABC group could be viewed as a legitimate way of him trying to express his frustration about his situation in prison. Although he still has the same political views that he once expressed through violent means within the prison system, he now seems to try and raise awareness of these issues using non-violent strategies, including writing for the organization ABC." Stillman's evocation of ABC as a dangerous gang of 'eco-terrorists and paramilitary members' was exposed for what it was and had always been, a blatant lie motivated by an intention to prejudice and destroy any chance I might have of release on parole.

Harris concluded her report by recommending my immediate return to an open prison, which naturally irked the administration at Castle Huntly open jail who had hired Stillman to do a hatchet job on me and had expected Harris to do likewise. In fact, Harris' report caused embarrassment and discomfort, and I remain in a high-security prison because the governor of Castle Huntly has now decided that a 'risk management group meeting' should take place in order to formulate a strategy of control over me. No date for the meeting has been given.

So a senior psychologist of the system's choice dispels completely the fantasies and lies of an idiotic and dubiously motivated prison social worker, and yet I remain locked up in maximum security because the people responsible for my treatment since April won't concede that victimisation lay at the very heart of their motives and actions.

Of course what really galls the Scottish Prison Service is that the protests and complaints organised on my behalf by ABC and others, and their claim that Stillman had lied about the nature of ABC's politics have now been validated by someone working at the very heart of the system, supposedly one of their own.

It is now established beyond doubt that Stillman's professional integrity is irreparably compromised and his motives deeply suspect. In relation to this matter, he is now the subject of two separate investigations, one by the Social Services Care Commission, and the other by the Scottish Prisons Ombudsman.

At the end of the day, however, Stillman was little more than a willing instrument of people holding management positions at Castle Huntly prison, people who deliberately and calculatedly engineered my removal from the prison and tried their damnedest to prevent my release from prison indefinitely.

John Bowden
HMP Glenochil

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